The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 6/6

There is no way to know when Robert Hart learned the details of the Taiping Rebellion. In Tilly’s opinion, he should have known all the details before the summer of 1855.

However, I have had the privilage of reading Robert Hart’s journal entries for his first year in China and he never mentions the Taipings—not once, but he does write about pirates, lonliness and his struggles to learn Chinese while working long days at the British consulate in Ningpo.

In  Entering China’s Service on page 156, it says, “Since 7 September 1853, the native city of Shanghai (not the foreign enclaves) had been in the hands of rebels from the Small Sword Society, an off-shoot of the Triads (note that it doesn’t say Taiping Rebels); Hart wrote of these circumstances when he was there (in Shanghai staying in the British sector) in route to Ningpo in early October 1854.”

On page 157, the editors said, “The local Triad Society rebellion at Shanghai was of course only a pale reflection of the great sweep of the Taiping Rebellion … In May 1855 … Hart heard that the rebels (the Taipings) had taken Yushan … between 300 and 400 miles from Ningpo. … Ningpo had more immediate concerns in the feud between the Portuguese lorchamen and Cantonese pirates. The prevalence of pirates … was a grave threat to the shipping of all nations (not the Taiping Rebellion).”

The Taipings did not control one port in China at this time.

Two months later, Robert would be spending the summer with his friend Captain Dan Patridge and there is no way to know what happened at Patridge’s house, because Hart burned the journals that covered the next 2.9 years—what did Robert want to hide?

In fact, Hart does not go into detail about who the Taipings were anywhere in his journals while he was still working in Ningpo, and that is understandable since he arrived in China not speaking or reading Chinese and was often isolated from other English speakers for days at a time in Ningpo as he worked long hours at the consulate dealing with merchants (both Chinese and Western) while struggling with the frustration of learning Chinese.

How could Hart discuss the details of a Chinese rebellion when he could not hold a conversatoin with the Chinese? It was also obvious from the entries in Hart’s journals that the few English speaking people he met in Ningpo, Shanghai or Hong Kong were not concerned about the Taiping Rebellion. It wasn’t a topic foreigners were interested in.

Knowing that there was a rebellion is one thing.  Knowing the specific details and history behind the cause of the rebellion is another and that was what Robert learned from Captain Dan Patridge in July 1855.

Hart arrived in Hong Kong in July 1854 and in July of 1855 he spends the summer with Partridge where he was introduced intimately to the concubine culture and discovered the details of the Taiping rebellion.

By the way, Patridge was a real person and he was the principal agent in China of Jardine and Matheson, the largest opium merchant operating in China. In fact, the Taipings were against the opium trade and wanted to throw all foreigners out of China.

Hart’s first year in China was spent mostly in isolation from his own kind and he felt lonely because of this. Most of the people he met on a daily basis were Chinese and he didn’t speak their language and they did not speak his. It was a difficult and demanding situation at best without the benefit of cultural workshops, inservices and the Interent that we take for granted today. I’m sure that the Queen’s College in Belfast did not have history courses on China during the 19th century and probably most of the 20th too.

Hart says in a July 29, 1855 entry of his journal, “I fear when I go back to the Consulate for the winter, I shall feel the loneliness very much.”

On page 169 of Entering China’s service, it says, “Unlike the lawlessness at Ningpo, which was due to crime—large scale, to be sure, but not organized as rebellion—the disorder of the 1850s at Canton was connected directly or indirectly with the rebellion of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.”

It would not be until 1858 that Hart was transferred to Canton. While Hart worked in Ningpo, as you may see, the concern of the Chinese and Westerners had little to do with the Taiping Rebellion and more with pirates and crime. Hart did not study Chinese history as it happened. He lived it and did not experience the Taiping Rebellion during his first year in China.

In addition, it wouldn’t be until Ayaou was his concubine, that he would start making progress learning Chinese and by then he knew all about the Taipings thanks to Captain Patridge, the opium merchant.

Tilly at the Readers Cafe has a right to her opinion about the novel but does not have a right to defame me or my work with a sloppy review filled with false claims of historical inaccuracy.

Return to The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 5 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 2/6

The second challenge (another example of defamation) to the history that flows through The Concubine Saga came from the Reader’s Cafe in a June 2012 review written by Tilly. This book review site has no search-engine traffic rank according to Alexa.com (at the time I checked) and has only 10 members but according to its Blog Archive it was launched in 2006.

Is this an indication of the popularity of reviews written on this site?

Anyway, Tilly proclaimed for all the world to read as long as the Reader’s Cafe remains an active domain that:

1. The time it took for Robert Hart to sail from  England to China was unrealistic.

2. Tilly claimed that Robert Hart could not have been raised to respect women as equals in Victorian England.

3. Robert Hart could not have believed that paying 33 pounds for a concubine was cheap.

4. Tilly called Ayaou, Hart’s concubine, a harlot.

5. Eunuchs were not castrated before they were hired to work in the Forbidden City.

6. Tilly claims there was no such thing as the Santai Dynasty

7. According to Tilly, there was no way that Robert Hart could not have known about the Taiping Rebellion in detail before he learns about it in the novel.

In reply to number one, I never mentioned how long it took Robert Hart to sail from England to China. The original first edition of The Concubine Saga opens as Hart arrived in Hong Kong after a long voyage from England.  Hart’s next voyage takes place a few days later from Hong Kong to Shanghai and I assure you that I followed the time span it took to make that voyage from Robert Hart’s own journal that covers his first year in China. He goes into detail about that trip even mentioning the pirates that chased the ship he was on.

The Concubine Saga (a revised and edited version of My Splendid Concubine combined with the sequel Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine) says in the third paragraph on page 3, “A month earlier, his ship had reached Hong Kong on July 25…”

Maybe I should have said, “his ship from England”.  You see, Robert Hart first arrived in Hong, where he stayed for a few days before sailing to Shanghai where he stayed with the Lay brothers before sailing to Ningpo about 100 miles south of Shanghai.

It’s all in Hart’s journals—every step of his journey after he arrived in China. In fact, Hart’s journal does not mention how long it took him to sail from England to Hong Kong other then he was seasick most of the voyage. However, he goes into detail about the voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai.

Tilly’s next example of defamation was to claim that Robert Hart was not raised to respect women as equals. To make this error meant she probably didn’t read the novel carefully or has attention deficit disorder or short term memory issues.

Continued July 10, 2012 in The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

When a Girl becomes a Woman depends on the Law at the Time

An honest 21st century review of The Concubine Saga at ColReads.com brought up a good subject for a post—the history of the changing attitudes of when a girl becomes a woman (You may want to click on the link to ColReads and read the entire review).

ColReads said, “The girls were younger than 15, for goodness sake. I had a hard time getting past that,” which is understandable when we take into account that in 21st century America the law makes a girl/woman a child until age 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 depending on which U.S. state you live in (watch the video to find out the age of consent in each state).

However, the age of consent laws in the middle of the 19th century (the time period of The Concubine Saga, which is based on a real story) were not the same as they are today.

To understand the difference between now and then, today in the People’s Republic of China the age of consent for sexual activity is 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In Hong Kong, it is 16 and in Macau 18.

However, “Depictions of ‘child-romance’ in ancient or modern Chinese literature are not difficult to find. They include passages on joyous heterosexual or homosexual activities by children as young as 12 to13 years old with one another or with adults. Children are usually described as natural sexual beings and erotic stimulation and sex-play are seen as beneficial to their healthy development (Chen 2000).” In fact, “For most of Chinese history, the minimum marriage age suggested by the government had ranged between 12 and 16.” Source: Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong

For a comparison, in 1875 in the UK, a concern that young girls were being sold into brothels let Parliament change the age of consent to 13. Prior to that, the age of consent was 12.

However, in the United States in 1875, each state determined its own criminal law and the age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. It would not be until after the 1930s that the term “jail bait” came into use in America as the age of consent laws changed. (I wonder if the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving the right to vote to women had anything to do with these changes.)

I could have sanitized The Concubine Saga and made both Ayaou and her sister Shao-mei much older to fit the attitudes of today’s readers but then that would have been historically incorrect. Sterling Seagrave in his book Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China, wrote, “He (Robert Hart) had just turned twenty. Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years.”

If Ayaou was barely 14, then there was only a six-year age gap between the two, while Hart’s arranged marriage to a young Irish woman named Hester Jane Bredon a decade later sees the gap double to twelve years when he was thirty and she was eighteen. In fact, Seagrave says, “He (Hart) sought a wife as straightforwardly as he had bought a concubine.” After returning to Ireland for a brief stay in 1866, Robert proposed marriage to Hester five days after he met her. The courtship lasted three months before they were married.

Should authors ignore historical fact and rewrite history to reflect the moral sensitivities of today’s readers?

For more on this topic, discover Modern-Day Witch Hunts and Vigilantes – the politically-correct mob’s (sex) war against teachers

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”